Holidays in Friesland. 6 Medieval Frisian churches. Part 2

THIS IS PART 2 OF 2 ABOUT SIX FRISIAN MEDIEVAL CHURCHES SEEN DURING MY HOLIDAYS. CLICK HERE TO SEE PART 1

Petruskerk (St Peter’s Church), Wanswerd/Wânswert. Late Gothic church on a late Iron Age terp. Most features are probably 16th century, with many additions from the 18th and 19th centuries. However there must have been a much older church as tuff (used until the beginning of the 13th century) was found in the choir under its 19th century outer walls.

During and after the Iconoclasms of the 16th century church buildings were often kept intact, as the protestants also needed a place to worship. Quite a few of these churches in the north were built on so-called “terps”, mounds built against the unpredictable sea. Frisians eked out a living in an environment prone to floods and these terps were already built in times long gone, so to many Frisians they were a common and precious feature in their landscape. They were places of safety and salvation. Churches were built on top of them. Originally they were of course built with clay and wood.

Petruskerk (St Peter’s Church), Wanswerd/Wânswert. West entrance and window.
Petruskerk (St Peter’s Church), Wanswerd/Wânswert. Bell tower from the west. By the time we were there a peregrine falcon was hibernating in the spire. There was a birdwatcher granting us a look through his telescope at the bird which was watching us anxiously and surveying the flat wintery Frisian landscape. At the moment this picture was taken the falcon was flying around, probably looking for some fat pigeons.
Petruskerk (St Peter’s Church), Wanswerd/Wânswert. The nave from the south. The different building and masonry can clearly be seen, especially the difference between the 19th century and earlier masonry.
Petruskerk (St Peter’s Church), Wanswerd/Wânswert. The nave from the north with, again, a mixture of different styles.
Petruskerk (St Peter’s Church), Wanswerd/Wânswert. We were given access to the church spontaneously by the hospitable sexton, who saw us walking around the building. This is the interior to the west, with the organ, built in 1877.
Petruskerk (St Peter’s Church), Wanswerd/Wânswert. The interior to the east.
Petruskerk (St Peter’s Church), Wanswerd/Wânswert. Tombstone in the church.
Petruskerk (St Peter’s Church), Wanswerd/Wânswert. Tombstone in the church.

But the local monks fostered new technologies for agriculture and for building. Around the year 1000 and afterwards many stone churches were built, like in the rest of western Europe. The international style then was the Romanesque with its sturdy, robust walls and small round-arched windows. There were of course no rocks in Friesland to hew stones from, and the technique of making bricks was lost centuries ago, so building stones had to be shipped from as far afield as the Eifel in Germany. The oldest churches still have masonry with these stones. Good examples amongst the six churches we visited are the ones in Genum/Ginnum and especially the very old one in Hogebeintum/Hegebeintum.

Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. Seen from the northwest. 13th century nave with 18th century buttresses, 12th century chapel, tower beginning 19th century.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. Northwest view with very clear differences in the masonry of the chapel (12th-13th century), the nave (13th century), buttresses (18th century) and bell tower (19th century).
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. Nave from the north. On top of the windows you can see probably re-used tuff. The whole façade in fact gives an idea of the long building history of the church.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. Façade of the originally 12th century north chapel. However the window is clearly gothic, while the differences in masonry also tell a quite long story.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. North chapel seen from the northeast.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. The 19th century choir with older traces.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. The church from the south. The 15th century south chapel was later re-used as a protestant consistory.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. The nave from the south.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. Again the local sexton gave us free admission to the church. This is the interior looking west. On the left the 1773 pulpit and on the right the 17th century “herenbanken” (seats for the local gentry).
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. Interior to the east
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. Interior to the north with the north chapel.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. 19th century organ.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. One of the many tombstones in the church.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. One of the many tombstones in the church.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. One of the many tombstones in the church.
Grote kerk (Great Church) or Sint-Maartenkerk (St Martin’s Church), Hallum. One of the many tombstones in the church. This one with a beautiful 16th century perspective relief.

When brick making was reintroduced in the Low Countries at the beginning of the 13th century, the Gothic style had already replaced the Romanesque in more southern parts of Europe from the middle of the 12th century onwards. The Gothic had bigger, pointed-arched windows and more refined and elegant building techniques and as such it was more able to represent the glory of the creed (and those in power). For that last aspect there was probably not much interest amongst the Frisians in the countryside. The Gothic became only fashionable up north in the 13th century. It was used in a very practical way to allow more daylight in the church, to make some new architectural decorations and to enlarge the existing smallish and dark Romanesque buildings.

Church, Hogebeintum/Hegebeintum. This church sits on the highest terp of Netherlands and Germany. The terp itself was probably built in the Roman Iron Age. It was dug out for its fertile soil, which caused many problems to the church and churchyard. It is now supported by an impressive concrete structure. The church itself is very old indeed, built in the 11th or 12th century.
Church, Hogebeintum/Hegebeintum. Apse. The church was originally Romanesque and built with tuff. However, like in any other old structure, things were changed through the centuries. The apse was raised in the 16th century and the small Romanesque windows were replaced by Gothic pointed arch windows.
Church, Hogebeintum/Hegebeintum. In the north wall of the nave you can still see traces of the smaller Romanesque windows. Around the first quarter of the 13th century the building was extended westwards, as you can see here.
Church, Hogebeintum/Hegebeintum.
Hogebeintum/Hegebeintum. Western part of the southern façade where you can see different styles: Romanesque, Romano-Gothic and Gothic, partly in the western extension of the church.
Church, Hogebeintum/Hegebeintum. Eastern part of the south façade, a tuff wall with Gothic windows.
Church, Hogebeintum/Hegebeintum. Seen from the southeast. The bell tower was renewed in the 18th century with masonry of that era.

Characteristic of the village churches in the two northern provinces throughout the ages are the gable roofs (instead of pointed spires) on the bell towers. It gives them a particularly robust character that didn’t really fit in very well with the Gothic or any other later style. Of the six churches we visited, only one – St Martin’s in Hallum – has a pointed spire, which is an early 19th century replacement of a once gable-roofed bell tower. And there is of course the small church at Janum/Jannum which has no bell tower at all, but a hanging belfry with one bell. It was interesting – just as interesting as any big Gothic cathedral – to see these old structures in their modern day context; sometimes on terps and surrounded by houses and trees they stand out as landmarks in the very flat and agricultural Frisian landscape. Which makes a trip to that part of the province all the more worth it.

Church, Hogebeintum/Hegebeintum. Seen from the northeast.

THIS IS WHERE PART 2 OF 2 ENDS. CLICK HERE TO SEE PART 1

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Bertus Pieters

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Holidays in Friesland. 6 Medieval Frisian churches. Part 1

Mariakerk (St Mary’s Church), Oenkerk/Oentsjerk. 13th century nave, 14th century bell tower with 17th century gable roof and sheathing, 19th century apse.

THIS IS PART 1 OF 2 ABOUT SIX FRISIAN MEDIEVAL CHURCHES SEEN DURING MY HOLIDAYS. CLICK HERE TO SEE PART 2.

As some readers may know i have a keen interest in European art and architecture made and built before 1600. Especially the so-called Middle Ages are interesting. They are dated usually from about 500 to 1500, but for the Low Countries it would be stylistically more appropriate to let the Middle Ages end in 1566 with the Iconoclasm starting that year. That definitely brought a radical end to Gothic art (which was already being replaced by the more fashionable Renaissance style in the cities). Church interiors old and new were torn down, sculptures and paintings were destroyed, frescos were covered with whitewash, and later on abbeys were confiscated and torn down, erasing a long social, aesthetic and religious history.

Mariakerk (St Mary’s Church), Oenkerk/Oentsjerk.
Mariakerk (St Mary’s Church), Oenkerk/Oentsjerk. South façade. Originally the church had a transept of which you can still see traces in the south and north walls of the nave. The apse (on the right) was partly rebuilt with original bricks.
Mariakerk (St Mary’s Church), Oenkerk/Oentsjerk. Steeple.
Mariakerk (St Mary’s Church), Oenkerk/Oentsjerk. West façade, with 17th century restorations.
Mariakerk (St Mary’s Church), Oenkerk/Oentsjerk. South façade.
Mariakerk (St Mary’s Church), Oenkerk/Oentsjerk. With traces of the north transept and a Romanesque window.
Mariakerk (St Mary’s Church), Oenkerk/Oentsjerk. From the north.

In fact this was the end of a long development starting with legalising Christianity and incorporating it into the Roman Empire by Constantine the Great in the 4th century. After that the Roman Catholic Church became powerful and even omnipotent in Western Europe, with the Popes in Rome becoming princes as powerful, greedy and corrupt as any other secular king. Conservatism, oppression, corruption and religious opportunism led to social and political unrest, and in the end it led to the Protestant Reformation of which the Dutch Iconoclasm was a result. In spite of that devastating Iconoclasm there are still tangible remnants of the Middle Ages in what is now called the Netherlands. The Dutch Middle Ages are of particular interest because the country as a political entity didn’t yet exist.

Church, Janum/Jannum. Romano-Gothic church, late 13th / early 14th century, choir 13th century, roof and belfry16th century. It was built on a pre-historic terp (a man made mound built to keep dry feet during floods) which was partly dug down in the 19th century. Today it houses a small museum (which we couldn’t visit because of the Covid lockdown).
Church, Janum/Jannum. Western façade with belfry, and nave.
Church, Janum/Jannum. Belfry with church bell made in 1489
Church, Janum/Jannum. Western façade. The bead profiles of the windows are characteristic of the 13th century Romano-Gothic in northern churches.
Church, Janum/Jannum. Nave, north façade.
Church, Janum/Jannum. Choir. Before WWII the church was in a very bad state. During the War it was restored, which gave the workers the advantage of not being deported to Germany for compulsory labour. Although the restoration work was obviously carried out quite meticulously, the masonry of the choir looks almost new.
Church, Janum/Jannum. The nave from the south.
Church, Janum/Jannum.

In medieval times the Low Countries were a collection of dukedoms, counties and bishoprics, spreading from modern day northern France to the North Sea, trading with each other as often as fighting with each other, often at war with or taken over by more powerful neighbours, but generally behaving quite independently. The present day Dutch are only interested in their Medieval heritage because it is all very old and still there, but they cannot take pride in it because there is no national Dutch heroism in it. Generally there is the idea that Medieval society was barbaric and intolerant. That ignores the fact that the Middle Ages were a long development of civilisation with both its shiny pages of enlightenment and its dark pages of barbarism, traces of which are still visible in the present. Amongst the oldest architectural remnants in the present day Netherlands are village churches in the two northern provinces Groningen and Friesland.

Church, Genum/Ginnum. From the south. Romanesque church, partly 12th century, enlarged 13th century, bell tower and apse 15th century. It was built on an Iron Age terp. Today it is used as artist’s studios.
Church, Genum/Ginnum.
Church, Genum/Ginnum.
Church, Genum/Ginnum. The northern part of the nave is the oldest part of the church. It has Romanesque decorations built in grey tuff. Tuff, a kind of volcanic stone, was imported from Germany. The technique of making bricks was lost since the Romans left the Low Countries, and it was only re-invented by the beginning of the 13th century. Although Frisian monks already knew in the 12th century how to make bricks, through their contacts with Italian abbeys, the Frisian sea clay was very difficult to work with and imported tuff was still preferred. So, even in Friesland and Groningen the use of bricks gives an indication of the time a church was built.
Church, Genum/Ginnum. Detail of the decoration. Traces of what was probably the entrance to a sacristy can still be seen.
Church, Genum/Ginnum. Detail of the decoration.
Church, Genum/Ginnum. North façade with a clear difference between the tuff masonry (left) and the later clay brick masonry (right).
Church, Genum/Ginnum. Western Romano-Gothic window.
Church, Genum/Ginnum. Bell tower.

During the week before Christmas i was on a family visit in a village northeast of the Frisian capital Leeuwarden/Ljouwert. It was a much wished for relaxed and worry-free holiday with loved ones i only see a very few times a year (or hardly at all under corona circumstances). The new Covid lockdown barred us from any visit to a museum, but then the Frisian countryside is as much an open air museum as any place could be. It is a museum of the present, of modernism, of nature, of agriculture, of geography and….. of Medieval times. So we took the opportunity to see some of these old Medieval churches.

Church, Genum/Ginnum. From the northwest.

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Contents of all photographs courtesy to my sister and brother in law, who made this trip possible

Bertus Pieters

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Art in corona times 96. Onco Tattje, De Poort (The Gate); Lauwersoog, Groningen province

In 1969 the Lauwers Sea (Lauwerszee), a small sea, was shut off from the Wadden Sea by a dam.

Today it is called Lauwersmeer (Lake Lauwersmeer) and it is situated in between the two northern provinces of Friesland and Groningen.

It is a National Park and a good place for bird watching.

On the eastern side of the national park is the fishing village of Lauwersoog, also founded in 1969, with the ferry to the Isle of Schiermonnikoog.

Also east of the Lauwersmeer National Park is a military training ground.

This monument by Onco Tattje (1943-2017) is in a dike built just between the national park and the military area.

It is a monument for the whole Lauwersmeer project and the refurbishment of the whole area, which took quite a few years.

It is quite impressive as a land art monument. A densely populated country, the Netherlands is not a very obvious place for land art.

As such this is, although not very well known, a very successful example in the north.

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Contents of all photographs courtesy to the estate of Onco Tattje and Lauwersmeer NP, Het Hogeland, Groningen province

Bertus Pieters

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Art in corona times 95. Bas Wiegmink & Casper Verborg, Resending Voice; Galerie Helder, The Hague

Bas Wiegmink

Painting is an ongoing tradition, full of wonder, space and colour.

Casper Verborg

As such it is still one of the most basic of artistic disciplines.

Bas Wiegmink

Presently Bas Wiegmink (1977) and Casper Verborg (1981) show their different visions on painting in Galerie Helder.

Casper Verborg

Wiegmink confronts three dimensional modern architecture and perspective with organic life, often creating a dreamlike unearthly atmosphere.

Casper Verborg

Verborg refers to, what one might call “the real world” with “real” persons. In a very big diptych he refers to two fragments by Monet in the Musée d’Orsay.

Casper Verborg

The impressionistic green has been replaced by a glowing red, while the open interpretation of Monet’s painting has been continued.

Casper Verborg

Verborg’s painting barely fits in the gallery.

Bas Wiegmink

The confrontation of the two painters is interesting as they show different interpretations of space; space in perspective, and space in colour.

Bas Wiegmink

Personally i greatly enjoyed the exhibition which brings a sense of wonder and warmth in these chilly times.

Bas Wiegmink

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Bertus Pieters

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Façades of The Hague #141

There is a monastery in the centre of The Hague.

While in the Roman Catholic southern cities of the Netherlands this may seem quite common, it is a bit unexpected in the centre of the residence of the government and royal family of a traditionally Protestant nation.

Yet there is one at Oude Molstraat.  

As can be read from the plaque, the monastery was inhabited by nuns, the Sisters of Charity, from the Roman Catholic revival in the 19th century until 1988.

Today the Brothers of Saint John are living, working and praying in the building.

Behind this particular façade the monks are brewing and selling beer.

Beer brewing has been a traditional source of income for monasteries stemming from times when normal water wasn’t always safe to drink, and when a fine pitcher of beer would give the right base for a hearty meal.

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2017.

Bertus Pieters

Façades of The Hague from #72 onwards: https://villanextdoor2.wordpress.com/category/facades-of-the-hague/

Façades of The Hague #1 – 71: https://villanextdoor.wordpress.com/category/facades-of-the-hague/

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Art in corona times 94. Isabel Reitemeyer, Animal Kingdom; HOK Gallery, The Hague

These days, during the Dutch rainy corona winter, we see reduced versions of ourselves, with thick coats, hoodies and, last but not least, with face masks.

One could say this gives away only our essentials: our movements and our eyes; but what is so essential about these?

Our personalities, the nuances of our movements, facial expressions and even our voices are hidden.

However, in art, and especially in collage art, one can reduce shapes to give them an essential character, either new or an essentialised reduction of the real thing.

That is what Isabel Reitemeyer (1966) is trying to do in her collages, presently on show at HOK Gallery. The works on show reflect on our bred versions of once free roaming animals.

Once proud hunting wolves have become lamentable misfits, and once fierce wild cats have become downy luxury cushions for our pleasure.

What have we done to these animals in our lust for decadence? Don’t hide behind your mask, this is what it is!

Reitemeyer’s collages, skillfully made, are both funny and distressing.

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Contents of all photographs courtesy to Isabel Reitemeyer and HOK Gallery, Den Haag

Bertus Pieters

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Art in corona times 93. Is it possible to be a revolutionary and like flowers?; Nest, The Hague

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do,

If bees are few.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Anne Geene

On the 25th of April 1974 – i remember it well – the military and the people of Portugal expelled the dictator Marcello Caetano, who fled to Brazil.

Anne Geene

Now the way was open for Portugal’s colonies to become independent and for the Portuguese state to wrestle itself from fascistoid military authoritarianism, a legacy of the Interwar period.

front Camille Henrot, back CPR

My father, a decent social-democrat, was delighted seeing it on TV and it was as if the revolutionary blood of his pre-war youth ran through his veins again in all its redness.

Camille Henrot

The revolution became known as the Carnation Revolution as red carnations were put in the muzzles of the soldiers’ guns by the people and by the soldiers themselves.

Camille Henrot

Red carnations – like red roses – are symbols of love and affection, and of socialism and as such of social justice.

Camille Henrot

For a flower with almost no fragrance (and with no thorns) this was quite something.

Mehraneh Atashi

It also reminds me of how at my mother’s cremation the undertaker had changed the red roses we as a family had ordered, for white ones, to our despair.

Gluklya

White roses are bland, without any love or passion. They represent an icy kind of virginity.  

Gluklya

Quite different from, for instance, the whiteness of magnolias.

Gluklya

Magnolias represent or symbolise nothing in western culture as far as i know.

Rossella Biscotti

That may be because its name was used only from the 18th century  onwards, a scientific name given by a Frenchman in Martinique.

Rossella Biscotti

It was named after the French botanist Magnol.

Mehraneh Atashi

Magnolias had their native range in the Americas, and were later on spread over the world as a decorative plant, and so the name of Magnol and part the history of French colonialism became household, without most people knowing it.

Milena Bonilla

But there is another *imperialist* story connected to magnolias.

Milena Bonilla

They belong to the oldest groups of flowering plants, which conquered the world during the Cretaceous, the age of dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex and the likes.

Lily van der Stokker

Flowering plants became part of the ecosystem of the world that both cultivated such monsters as well as survived their demise.

Patricia Kaersenhout

Maybe magnolias would be a good symbol of survival.

Patricia Kaersenhout

They are not as intricate as orchids, not as passionate as red roses and it may prove difficult to put them in the muzzle of a gun, but they are simple, even a bit primitive. Isn’t that enough?

Patricia Kaersenhout

Can you be revolutionary and like flowers? That is the question.

front Maria Pask, back Philipp Gufler

Well, to many revolutionaries it was quite out of the question.

Philipp Gufler

But still, flowers are silent witnesses, and as symbols of almost everything one could think of, they are indelible in the history of human thinking and imagination.

Ruchama Noorda

The wonderful exhibition Is it possible to be a revolutionary and like flowers? at Nest is accompanied by a 78 page publication.

Ruchama Noorda

It has a good and comprehensive introduction by Laurie Cluitmans and some text by the artists about their favourite plants and flowers.

Ruchama Noorda

There is so much text in it, that it would be superfluous for me to write a long article about it in Villa La Repubblica, although it would deserve it.

Otobong Nkanga

Instead here are some impressions of the show and some private musings which may or may not give you an incentive to go and take a look at the show yourself (as long as corona measures permit).

Otobong Nkanga

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Contents of all photographs courtesy to all artists and Nest, Den Haag

Bertus Pieters

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Art in corona times 92. John Nixon; Superweakness, The Hague

Geometric abstraction, minimalism and the whole movement towards a kind of art that doesn’t need representation since that niche has been occupied by photography, first became mainstream after WWII, and has now become middle of the road.

Later post-modernism caused a sharp representational backlash, and, in a way that is still working.

However, representational and non-representational art seem to live together quite peacefully in these days of verbal aggression.

Abstract art is sometimes accused of not being substantive or worse, of not being ‘layered’, since that seems the only thing that counts for present-day ‘intellectual’ art viewers.

Indeed, abstract art can be very decorative in the bad sense of the word, but work like John Nixon‘s (1949-2020) will show you that  there is an immense world to be seen and experienced in abstraction – geometric or otherwise.

In Nixon’s case it is a world of sensitivity to colour and material, to sophistication and simplicity, and not least to playfulness and humour.

In a commemorative exhibition at Superweakness, long time admirers Machiel van Soest and Jan van der Ploeg (who also administers Nixon’s Dutch estate) felt they should also show something of Nixon’s open, social and inspiring personality.

It has become a particularly sparkling show, lovingly put together, with works from different periods, which, i must say, i personally enjoyed very much.

More details at Superweakness‘s website.

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Contents of all photographs courtesy to the owners of the works, the estate of John Nixon and Superweakness, Den Haag

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Façades of The Hague #140

Façade of a residential building, Koninginnegracht.

The house was built in 1938 in late New Hague School style and is standing out in between the somewhat dull late 19th century façades of the block.

© Villa Next Door 2021

All pictures were taken in March 2017.

Bertus Pieters

Façades of The Hague from #72 onwards: https://villanextdoor2.wordpress.com/category/facades-of-the-hague/

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